A classic intent case

Jeffrey Toobin says it’s all about intent. Intent cases are about what’s in people’s heads, what they knew and how that related to what they did. Selling stocks in your company? Fine. Selling stocks in your company when you know it’s tanking and others don’t? Fraud.

The issue of whether President Trump obstructed justice centers on his decision to fire James Comey, the F.B.I. director, last May. This is a classic intent case. The President clearly had the right to fire Comey, but he did not have the right to do so with improper intent. Specifically, the relevant obstruction-of-justice statute holds that any individual who “corruptly . . . influences, obstructs, or impedes, or endeavors to influence, obstruct, or impede, the due administration of justice” is guilty of the crime. “Corruptly” is the key word. Did Trump act “corruptly” in firing Comey?

It’s funny, in a warped way, how Trump has been artlessly telling us he did all along. It’s warpedly funny how he artlessly told Lester Holt and the rest of us he did the very next day.

It is this question of corrupt intent that makes the Times’srecent blockbuster scoop so important. According to the article, the President tried to fire Robert Mueller, the special counsel, last June, but he stopped when Don McGahn, the White House counsel, threatened to resign if Trump insisted on the dismissal.

Well quite. It seemed obviously corrupt when he fired Comey, and it seemed obvious that it would be corrupt if he went on to fire Mueller. It seemed as if we talked about little else for weeks.

McGahn recognized the key fact—that Trump wanted to fire Mueller for the wrong reasons. Trump wanted to fire Mueller because his investigation was threatening to him. This, of course, also illuminates the reasons behind Trump’s firing of Comey, which took place just a month before the President’s confrontation with McGahn regarding Mueller. Trump and his advisers have offered various tortured rationalizations for the firing of Comey—initially, for example, on the ground that Comey had been unfair to Hillary Clinton during the 2016 campaign. Trump himself came clean in an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt and in a meeting with Russia’s foreign minister. In both, Trump acknowledged that he fired Comey to stall or stop the Russia investigation—that is, the investigation of Trump himself and his campaign.

Bozo is corrupt and Bozo is performing his corruption daily before our wondering eyes. He’s making life very difficult for any lawyer who tries to defend him.

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